April 27th, 2010
11:19 AM ET

Girl stung by venomous box jellyfish 'shouldn't be alive'

A biologist researches the lethal nature of the box jellyfish.

To call 10-year-old Rachel Shardlow a survivor is an understatement.

In December, the girl tangled with a box jellyfish, one of the world's most venomous creatures, in the Calliope River near Gladstone, Australia.

"Usually when you see people who have been stung by box jellyfish with that number of the tentacle contacts on their body, it's usually in a morgue," Jamie Seymour, a zoology and tropical ecology associate professor at James Cook University told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The creature didn't just sting the girl. It enveloped her: Its tentacles wrapped around her limbs and wouldn't let go. She couldn't see or breathe. The creature, which is capable of killing an adult in four minutes, wrapped its tentacles tighter and knocked her unconscious.

"I don't know of anybody in the entire literature where we've studied this where someone has had such an extensive sting that has survived," Seymour told ABC. "When I first saw the pictures of the injuries I just went, 'you know to be honest, this kid should not be alive'. I mean they are horrific."

After several weeks in the hospital Shardlow is still feeling the effects - but the fact she is feeling anything at all - let alone doing as well as she is baffles Seymour. For now, besides scarring and memory loss, she is doing well, her family told ABC.

ABC: Young stinger victim speaks out

There have been others who have survived being stung by the deadly jellyfish, but Seymour said many of them are stung quickly, but not to the extent Shardlow was and with as many tentacles wrapped around them, Seymour said.

Seymour and other Queensland researchers received a $40,000 grant to investigate just how lethal is the venom of Irukandji and its relative box jellyfish. They will also look for treatments to help those like Shardlow who are stung by them.

The jellyfish, found often in the Great Barrier Reef, can have as many as 15 tentacles on each corner of its bodies with nearly 5,000 stinging cells, according to a guide to sea creatures posted on the Great Barrier Reef site.

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Filed under: Australia • Health • Web Pulse • World
soundoff (725 Responses)
  1. Sue

    To have survived something like that is a miracle. Truly!

    April 27, 2010 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  2. William


    Best wishes for a COMPLETE recovery!

    April 27, 2010 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  3. Haider

    Truly amazing!I think we need to study and explore this wonderful creature more.

    April 27, 2010 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  4. Bobby

    Perfectly, the child has a great antibodies that repels stings and poisons. Remarkable indeed.

    April 27, 2010 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  5. brian

    i trully believe that god has a perpose for that little girl

    April 27, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Julie

    Wow Thats AMAZING I hope u feel better soon. and i wish u luck

    April 27, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Betsy

    Mr. Solomon – just because we can't explain something now doesn't mean it was the work of a deity. Remember how people used to think thunderstorms were manifestations of the gods' anger? Thank goodness for science and its continuous efforts to explain the unknown.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  8. John Teeb

    @ D. Solomon,
    This would be the same GOD that created this creature and then made it attach this girl?

    April 27, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Tom

    Maybe they should grant money to study the little girl as well as the jellyfish!

    April 27, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Marc

    are you kidding me????????????? can we leave "god" out of this? just for once???? PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!????????

    April 27, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Joel

    Wait? Seriously? One person surviving an incident like this is "proof" that god exists? So what about all the people killed by animals? Do we get to count those as "proof" that god doesn't exist?

    April 27, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Meliha

    Wishing you a speedy recovery Rachel.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Bob

    If god cared at all, she wouldn't have been stung. Something absolutely horrific happens to a little girl, leaving her physically and mentally scarred, yet she manages to survive anyways. Therefore, god must be great? You may want to rethink that position.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Atheist

    Oh my god! I woke up today and brushed my teeth! It's a miracle!

    April 27, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Val

    Hey Brian .... you need to use your spell checker before trying to post a profound thought.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
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